On March 20, 2015 government’s response to the independent review of MAS (Money Advice Service) headed by Christine Farnish. On the same day the review was published as well. The FCA, Financial Conduct Authority and MAS also gave their response to the independent review.

Christine Farnish Appointed Head of Independent Review

Government established MAS to ensure access to financial advice and education to consumers. Last year, May of 2014, Christine Farnish was appointed to lead the independent review of the Money Advice Service.

In their responses, the government, the FCA and MAS established what they will do to meet recommendations and challenges identified in the review. It is also their aim to improve how those objectives are met by MAS.

Findings of Review

In relation to debt advice, the review found that significant progress was made by MAS since 2012. Further, the recommendation of the review that MAS should continue to provide excellent quality advice on debt to consumers was well received by government. MAS is dedicated to the creation of a Debt Advice Steering Group which will back the MAS’ efforts to abide by the review’s recommendations which include giving assistance to consumers so that they can receive advice through the means that is best suited to their needs.

Government was equally pleased with commitments from the water and energy sectors to provide £1 million during the coming financial year for debt advice funded by the Money Advice Service. This is a vital step towards a more sustainable funding platform for debt advice that is more sustainable and equitable.

Recommendations Going Forward

In regards to money advice, it was recommended by the review that MAS should close market gaps to circumvent the duplication of those services already in place by other financial advice and education providers. This objective is supported by government, and also welcomed the FCA and MAS’ commitment to work together to implement many of the review’s recommendations.

The two groups are committed to working in unison to answer questions brought up by the review in terms of the Money Advice Service’s current delivery models and their focus. It is their intent to submit and publish plans of action for submission to government this coming autumn.

Government Will Review Recommendations Again in Autumn

After the recommendations are submitted, government will decide if any other changes to the advice service need to be put in place, and whether or not any changes in legislation are needed. Their findings will be published before year’s end. Potential alterations would need to be in the context of plans going forward as well as in any new developments within the financial advice and information sector. Included in their findings will be how government’s changes in pensions affected the sector.

In response to the final report of the independent review, Andrea Leadsom, Economic Secretary states that a key part of government’s long term plan is ensuring consumers have access to first-rate advice and education.

Secretary Leadsom further says that she is happy to announce that the final report and government’s response to the independent review have been published.

In her words, she is “grateful to Christine for her work in leading this review” which she states makes several recommendations that are important for improving the manner in which the Money Advice Service is run. She further welcomes the steps announced by MAS along with the group’s commitment to consider in full recommendations made by the review and their agreement to submit a prospective plan of action in the autumn.

Farnish states that the Money Advice Service needs to revamp its business model. If they follow her recommendations, consumers will better have the ability to comprehend and work through the financial services markets that are highly complex.

Rather than to compete in a market that is already over-crowded, the Money Advice service should work for consumers to strengthen the accessibility and supply of financial guidance and information. The independent review details how these benefits to consumers could be realized with greater accountability and a much reduced cost.

This challenges MAS but also provides an opportunity that is possible to achieve. Christine Farnish believes that the result will be better service to consumers.

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